New Jersey To Streamline SCHIP Enrollment Process

Published July 1, 2009

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D) has announced the beginning of a streamlined application process for FamilyCare, the state’s taxpayer-funded Medicaid program.

A one-page “Express Lane” application for enrollment in FamilyCare will be mailed this summer to New Jersey residents making 350 percent of the federal poverty level or less who noted on their 2008 tax forms they had uninsured children.

Approximately 1.2 million New Jersey residents are uninsured. Only about 127,000 adults and 131,000 children are enrolled in FamilyCare, according to state figures.

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, says shortening the application process was a common-sense move, but both he and John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute, caution greater enrollment in the taxpayer-funded health insurance program might not be a good thing.

Self-Made Problem

“New Jersey is second only to New York as a drag on the American taxpayer,” said Graham. “Taxpayers in all 49 other states are paying for New Jersey’s out-of-control Medicaid program.

“The reason New Jersey ‘needs’ to have so many people dependent on the state for health care is it has made private health insurance unaffordable to its residents,” Graham added. “Making it easier for people to sign up for New Jersey Medicaid is not a good solution to this problem. It would be a far better move to deregulate insurance markets.”

Better Targeting Called For

“Simply shortening the application should have been an obvious change some time ago,” said Gessing. “Streamlining government forms is something most people on both the right and left can get behind.”

J.P. Wieske, director of state affairs at the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, said, “One of the problems with government-run health care is that bureaucracy is typically huge. At least 25 percent of the uninsured in America are eligible for existing programs but never sign up. Streamlining the application process just makes sense if government actually wants residents to take advantage of offered benefits.”

However, encouraging more people to join government-run programs is a bad idea, Gessing said.

“Do we really want to make it easier for families with incomes up to 350 percent of the federal poverty level to shift the cost of their children’s health care onto the taxpayers?” Gessing asked.

“If FamilyCare were dedicated to providing health care only to the truly needy, then a streamlined form would be a godsend for those poor parents,” Gessing said. “New Jersey’s program, though, is in dire need of an overall streamlining—and that includes targeting it to the children who really need it.”

Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas. Katie Flanigan ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.